Is Being Drunk a Defense to Theft Charges?

If you’ve been accused of theft, you’re probably looking into your defense options. It may be simple if you maintain that you didn’t do it or you have an alibi. But it can get a bit more complicated than that.

For instance, what if you were intoxicated at the time? You went to a bar, you had a bit too much to drink, and you grabbed a coat on the way out. Little did you know that it was a very expensive leather coat, not your far-less-expensive faux-leather jacket. You only discovered that the next morning when you woke up and realized you had brought home a coat that was not yours.

In some cases, you can use this type of confusion and intoxication as a defense. The idea is that theft itself requires intent. Accidentally grabbing something that isn’t yours, while honestly thinking that it is, appears far different to the court than making a deliberate effort to take something that does not belong to you. If you were drunk and had no intent to commit theft, was it really theft or just a mistake?

That said, this defense doesn’t work in all cases. Maybe the alcohol just lowered your inhibitions and so you engaged in risky behavior — deliberately stealing the item — that you wouldn’t have engaged in otherwise. That’s still theft because you intended to steal the item, even if the alcohol made it more likely that you would do so.

As you can see, things often get complicated and are far less straight-forward than you would assume. If you find yourself in this situation and facing some serious charges, you must know what legal options you have.

Jeniece LaCross, Attorney At Law

Jeniece LaCross, Attorney At Law